Green Jobs to the Max: “Community Power Works”

With several pieces of implementing legislation having been adopted, Seattle is poised to launch a dramatic new initiative this fall that will save energy and create up to 2000 green jobs.  “Community Power Works” is a $140 million program to retrofit residential, commercial, hospital, and municipal buildings in Central and South Seattle.

Base funding for the program comes from a $20 million federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG).  This leverages another $120 million in local funds to create up to 2000 new living wage green jobs in energy conservation.  The goal of the program is to achieve 15 to 45% energy savings per building retrofitted, and to retrofit some 15% of the buildings in Seattle.  This will annually reduce Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 70,000 metric tons.

The program has three other critical goals:

— To foster the recovery of the local economy, put people back to work, and support small businesses.

— To create living wage jobs that build on the skill development programs conducted by Seattle’s community colleges, unions, and community-based organizations.

— To leverage these funds to build the technical, marketing, and financial capability of local businesses to keep the momentum going on energy conservation after the program ends in two years.  If successful, this will mean that the jobs become permanent and that the retrofit program can spread to the rest of the City.  In turn, that means more energy saved and greenhouse gas emissions prevented.

A critical piece of this program is a “Community High Road Agreement”, a negotiated agreement among a broad base of community stakeholders that ensures that there will be broad access to the program’s economic opportunities for all types of businesses and workers, quality training programs that set trainees on long-term career paths, and high quality standards for the work performed.

This is one of the most important programs that the City of Seattle has developed in recent years.  It was initiated under the Nickels administration, and has received full support from the Council and Mayor McGinn.  It demonstrates how we can come together around common goals, and do so in partnership with community stakeholders.  It is also a great example of how environmental goals, community empowerment, and economic development can go hand in hand.